October 07, 2011, 11:09 AM — An idiotic technical problem and a strange phone call highlighted something I dismissed in most of the tributes to and lamentations about Steve Jobs this week .
The idiotic technical problem was a Verizon Fios router that decided – gradually, over several days – that it didn't like all the messy, noisy user-ish traffic from applications and servers I kept passing through it, so it was going to quit carrying all that stuff.
It wasn't obvious about it. I didn't get any big-flag warnings that the router had quit or the Internet at large was rejecting my content. The router gave every sign of working just fine on every level of the OSI networking stack except the ones that were important to anything users on this side of it wanted to do.
When Verizon pinged it to say hello and ask how things were going, it pinged right back.
And it kept my VoIP line working just fine, because all the messy voice traffic is wrapped up so neatly in SIP at Layer 5. It just didn't like all the junk that wanted to squeeze through on Layers 6 and 7 – the ones any humans using the network actually cared about.
All the usual tests that would tell me the router was the one sandbagging me said the router seemed to be working just fine and the problem must be something else – a switch in the corner, a bad Ethernet cable or corrupted TCP/IP stack, networking driver or other bit of config on my laptop.
It was so non-obvious I spent a day and a half cleaning out my laptop and then dirtying it up again trying to convince it to talk to the Internet again.
I uninstalled services and reinstalled, scanned for malware, scanned again, scanned a different way, stripped out old drivers, installed new drivers, replaced old drivers because the new ones might be buggy, uninstalled updates that might have corrupted something, reinstalled updates because they were clearly righteous.
I Fixed apps, Repaired Windows, added modules, removed modules and waded shin deep in the sewage and plaque of obsolesence that makes the Registry an anthropological dig through the decomposing remains of deceased software, rousted out homeless bits of .inf and .sys and winxs and all the rest of cruft and nonsense that even clean Windows apps (and Windows) leaves behind because they don't really care if they make it harder or slower to use the system for work that does not involve maintaining the system itself.
No amount of swearing proved effective.
Nothing hinted that the laptop was not the source of the problem.
Steve Jobs passed away and my computer responded by going into isolation from the network.